Print From your Mobile Phone

by : Alan Wilson

If your Bluetooth-enabled camera phone is full of snapshots you'd rather see in print, a Bluetooth-enabled printer can set them free.

Let's say you're out and about, and you find yourself in the midst of a scene that you just have to capture on (digital) film. Do you stop and dig around in your pocket for your camera? Do you even have your camera with you? Maybe not. But you do have your camera phone. So you snap the picture with your mobile, and there it is. In your phone. What's the next step? You can beam it to a friend's phone. You can download it to a computer. And now that phone companies and printer manufacturers are embracing the world of Bluetooth, you can make a quick, easy, good-looking print.

Although camera companies are quick to espouse the high pixel counts of their latest offerings, the truth is that you don't really need a 10-megapixel SLR for quick snapshots, even if you plan to print your pictures. In fact, you can make a high-quality 4 by 6 print with only two megapixels. Two! And now that phone companies are installing higher-quality cameras in their products, two-megapixel camera phones aren't that difficult to find.

Printer manufacturers are also aware of the upswing in camera-phone photography. In response, many have integrated Bluetooth technology into their machines. This means that if your phone supports the Bluetooth Printing Profile (BPP), you can wirelessly send a photo straight from your phone to your printer, and end up with a hard copy to hand to a friend. (Just keep in mind that BPP support is an important detail-just because your phone offers Bluetooth doesn't mean it supports everything Bluetooth can do.)

Many photo printer manufacturers offer optional Bluetooth adapters that plug right into the USB port on the printer. We examine dedicated photo printers from three of the main manufacturers offering this facility and determine a best buy for your budget.

HP Photosmart A717 is the latest compact photo printer available from HP, it has all the usual features common with the photosmart range, has memory card slots for all the major formats, is PictBridge and iPod compatible and has an optional Bluetooth wireless capability.

The 2.51in LCD screen is acceptable and the 4GB internal memory will allow you to store a massive 4000 photos which can be printed out in a variety of sizes up to 13x18cm. One improved feature over previous models is that waterproof output is now a standard with the improved ink and paper used with this printer.

Output quality, including indoor and outdoor shots, close-ups of faces, landscapes and more - qualified as true photo quality. There were some minor flaws on close inspection, including a slight loss of detail in bright areas of some photos but certainly not common enough to be offputting.

Cost per print using the HP110 Value Pack (hpq8700a) which includes an HP110 cartridge and 120 sheets of 10x15 photo paper is just over 20 pence which is less than most photo printers.

Epson PictureMate 500 Epson is one of the main manufactures of photo inkjet printers and its dedicated, small format PictureMate 500 is interesting because it prints in six colours rather than the three colours provided in the above HP printer.

Whilst the three colour print processes used by HP produce high quality photo prints, the extra colours offered by Epson produced noticeable improvements, particularly in lighter shades. Here the photo cyan and photo magenta inks produce brighter and more vibrant colours.

Cost per print using the T557 picture pack is also about 20pence per print and all major memory cards are supported along with PictBridge and of course the optional Bluetooth capability.

Canon Selphy CP740 is the final printer to be considered in this group and if looks alone were your criteria it would win hands down.

The CP740 weighs a mere 940g and its 179x127x63mm dimensions are smaller than a tiny loaf of bread. Its Apple-like creamy colour is clearly designed to complement your Mac and iPod and the range of buttons that control mode, layout and the welcome auto Red Eye correction icon are easy to use.

Quality of the finished image is impressive, although not quite up to the standard of the Epson. Each print takes four passes to complete and it's intreaging to watch the sharpness and clarity emerge with the final pass adding a high gloss protective layer.

The major downside of this machine is the awkward front photo tray whose fitting can take a while to master, all other features are similar to the other printers reviewed and considering the Canon currently sells for about ?30 less than the opposition, it looks a bit of a bargain.

So which printer is best for my mobile prints? If out and out photo quality is your primary concern then the Epson is clearly your best option, if however all you want to do is produce respectable photo prints quickly and with minimum fuss then the bargain priced cute looking Canon is the printer for you. The HP does everything well but ultimately fails to be best at anything.